A disingenuous response

The Times’ Public Editor tackles the Kristol Kontroversy:

The choice of Safire, who retired in 2005, set off a storm of protest. “The Times could have saved themselves about 50 grand a year if they just sent an office boy over to the White House to pick up the press releases,” fumed Nicholas von Hoffman of The Washington Post. Kristol’s appointment has not fared any better. “Pretty much the worst idea ever,” grumped Gawker, the New York media gossip Web site.

Of the nearly 700 messages I have received since Kristol’s selection was announced — more than half of them before he ever wrote a word for The Times — exactly one praised the choice.

Rosenthal’s mail has been particularly rough. “That rotten, traiterous [sic] piece of filth should be hung by the ankles from a lamp post and beaten by the mob rather than gaining a pulpit at ANY self-respecting news organization,” said one message. “You should be ashamed. Apparently you are only out for money and therefore an equally traiterous [sic] whore deserving the same treatment.”

Kristol would not have been my choice to join David Brooks as a second conservative voice in the mix of Times columnists, but the reaction is beyond reason. Hiring Kristol the worst idea ever? I can think of many worse. Hanging someone from a lamppost to be beaten by a mob because of his ideas? And that is from a liberal, defined by Webster as “one who is open-minded.” What have we come to?

What, indeed? Mercy me, such vile language (and bad spelling!) in the one email out of seven hundred he has chosen to reprint! Somebody fetch the smelling salts!

And then there’s this:

Rosenthal said: “Some people have said we shouldn’t have hired him because he supports the war in Iraq. That’s absurd.”

Er, no. That’s maybe what Rosenthal is hearing — what people are actually saying is that he shouldn’t have been hired because he has been wrong on everything over the course of this war, not to mention the fact that he is an operator first and a commentator second, and his commentary is frequently and deliberately dishonest and misleading in the service of his objectives. If it became necessary to start drafting six year olds to maintain the occupation of Iraq, Bill Kristol would be first in line arguing that six year olds are really much more mature than anyone realizes, and that the experience would be a completely beneficial one for them.

Toward the end, at least, Hoyt does at least acknowledge that this is an odd reward for someone who has absolutely no respect for the First Amendment:

On Fox News Sunday on June 25, 2006, Kristol said, “I think the attorney general has an absolute obligation to consider prosecution” of The New York Times for publishing an article that revealed a classified government program to sift the international banking transactions of thousands of Americans in a search for terrorists.

Publication of the article was controversial — my predecessor as public editor first supported it and then changed his mind — but Kristol’s leap to prosecution smacked of intimidation and disregard for both the First Amendment and the role of a free press in monitoring a government that has a long history of throwing the cloak of national security and classification over its activities. This is not a person I would have rewarded with a regular spot in front of arguably the most elite audience in the nation.

To put it mildly.